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Blast hopes road will get it started on upward climb


A change of scenery can do wonders for a team in the middle of a sometimes tedious regular season.

That's something the Blast (12-12) is counting on this weekend.

Coming off a so-so, 2-2 home stand -- rescued by a last-second goal that beat the Harrisburg Heat on Saturday -- the team will visit the Cleveland Crunch tomorrow night and then head to Nashville, Tenn., for a neutral-site game against the Philadelphia KiXX on Saturday.

"We didn't do as well as we wanted to, but we ended up with a win in the last game and I think it's going to be good for us to get on the road a little bit to take the pressure off," said Blast midfielder Paul Wright. "We can just play and have fun again."

Nashville is a strong expansion candidate for next season, so a possible sneak preview of the Gaylord Entertainment Center -- where the new franchise would play -- could be beneficial in the years to follow.

With every arena featuring its own dimensions, bounces and caroms, players on both sides will try to adjust as they go and put on a good show for a new audience on Saturday.

"One thing about the players in this league is they really want to see our game succeed and they're one of the biggest assets of the game," said Blast coach Kevin Healey.

"So this gives our players a chance to go down there and showcase our game. I think they'll be energized by that."

All-Star news

The MISL All-Star Game, set for 3:30 p.m on Feb. 17 in Cleveland, will be televised live on CNN/SI.

"It gives the league a national-broadcast platform to market the All-Star Game and our All-Star players," commissioner Steve Ryan said in a written release.

There's only one problem: CNN/SI is not available in the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Harrisburg markets.

The league also announced the rosters for the Legends Game (former MISL stars vs. former Cleveland Force stars) that will be played prior to the All-Star Game

Among the notable players representing the Force will be Cris Vaccaro, Paul Kitson, Kai Haaskivi and Carl Valentine, all of whom spent time with the Blast.

Playing on the MISL side will be former Blast standouts Scott Manning, Mike Stankovic and Richard Chinapoo.

A puzzling omission is former Blast midfielder and current assistant coach/general manager Billy Ronson.

Delevski, Nogueira honored

Kansas City forward Dino Delevski registered 37 points in seven games to be named Offensive Player of the Month for January, while Milwaukee Wave goalkeeper Victor Nogueira went 8-1 with a 9.60 points-against average to claim defensive honors.

Wright was named honorable mention after recording 32 points in seven games for the Blast. Saturday against Harrisburg, he recorded his 100th career blocked shot and also got the win as the keeper who came on as an extra attacker.

The Offensive Player of the Week award went to Cleveland's Hector Marinaro, who finished with 13 points in two games to increase his league-leading total to 102 points. Nogueira won the defensive award for a third straight week for his work in a 14-6 win over Philadelphia last Thursday.

Filling the seats

The MISL has drawn some of its biggest crowds of the season the past two weeks.

It started Jan. 26 in Philadelphia when the KiXX had 7,880 fans at the First Union Spectrum for a game against Milwaukee on Peter Pappas bobblehead doll night.

Saturday night, the Blast had 9,368 on hand to watch Denison Cabral score a three-pointer with five seconds left for a 13-11 win over the Heat.

Tuesday afternoon, the Cleveland Crunch held a special School Day outing, drawing 8,356 for a game in which Philadelphia came away with a 12-10 overtime win.

100 straight?

Wave forward Joe Reiniger can extend his point-scoring streak to 100 games in the team's three-game weekend. The veteran All-Star has scored at least one point in 98 straight games dating to March 13, 1999.

The Wave will get a visit from Philadelphia tomorrow night, will travel to Cleveland on Saturday and then will return home to take on Harrisburg Sunday afternoon.

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